Lost in Space – Postmortem

Posted by (twitter: @clemkeirua)
April 25th, 2012 9:55 am

The game can be played here.

A few figures and random info first:

  • My first Ludum Dare
  • I started 4 hours after the beginning of the “competition”. It was 7am in France at that time.
  • I worked 16 hours on saturday, and 18 on sunday.
  • I wrote 400 lines of bootstrapping code beforehand, then ~800 lines on saturday, and something like 600 on sunday
  • I slept 7 hours, and woke up on both weekend days earlier than what I usually do during the week
  • I managed to wake up in time to go to work on monday morning, which is quite nice.
  • I wrote my first “serious” line of javascript the week before, during the warmup weekend.

What went right – bright sides first.

– I managed to finish making a game.
That’s actually quite a feat ! I did a few games in the past, but only focused on coding the gameplay. Here I have a loading screen, a title screen, an intro story, some gameplay, cutscenes, the player can win, die, and there is a credit screen ! Despite everything else, that’s totally something I’m prouf of.

– Time management
I am very happy I catched an advice on IRC. It was not really an avice, but someone said “My goal is to get the gameplay done by the end of saturday”. I thought the guy was crazy, how comes the gameplay could be good by saturday’s evening ? Anyway that guy was right (or at least, it fitted was style). By focusing on it on the first day, I had time on the second day for polishing. And I could turn a gameplay demo into an actual game. Finishing something feels really good. Time management at a small scale did not work as I expected, but I’m quite happy that I managed to follow my strategy during the weekend.

– I did that in Javascript.
This language was almost new to me, and anyway I globally managed to get it to do what I wanted. My bootstrapping framework helped a lot, as its designs suits my coding style (although my javascript coding style is style far from perfect). It mostly behaved as expected and I only had to update it a bit.

– I learnt a lot of things
I made some music in Audacity with Circuli, made some game sounds with my voice, and did some graphics with Inkscape… It may seem very basic never opened Audacity before (I installed it during the 2 days). Of course the result is not really good, but anyway, regarding music, I did not expect at first to produce something.

What went wrong – what I now have to focus on

– My game sucks.
Gameplay wise, there are many things that I would have loved to had to the gameplay. Right now, it’s not really a game, it’s much closer to an interactive story. I wanted a more evolved AI, where the enemies attack the player when it is close to them. I wanted the played to be able to get some weapons (rocks), and use them against them. I wanted some fog of war. Time was lacking, and I had to get rid of some ideas and keep something very simple. Only the bare minimum to get to something that works.

Regarding the story, I focused a lot on getting the dialog and intro engine working. It took me a lot of time, and in the end I was so tired by it and wanted to do something else. Once the code was working, I did not take enough time to produce an interesting story. By the way this part of the code (intro/dialogs) is really not something I’m proud of. Many stuff could be refactored into something reusable. Instead, there is a lot of code duplication. However I figured this out late in the weekend and prefered to do something working but ugly instead of taking the risk of breaking something.

– Graphics are terrible.
I know I am not a graphist kind of guy, and I managed to produce quite a lot of images during this weekend. However the end result is not very pretty (have a look by your self. it could have been done by a 6 year old). Anyway I started to learn how to use Inkscape which is a great tool, I’ll need to get better at it but I’m convinced I can do some good stuf with it.

– Javascript…
Even though I did not know a lot of javascript, I managed to produce a huge amount of code. Regarding volume of functionnalities, I’m pretty happy with the result. Regarding its quality, there still is a lot of room for improvements.
Because of some issues with the language, I did not manage to do everything I wanted. I also got stuck for 1h30 because I forgot that “this” can mean a lot of things in javascript, and at some place, it was not meaning what I thought it was. Anyway for a language that I had never used a week before, I’m pretty happy with what I managed to come up with.

– Breaks.
Rest was OK : I slept correctly both nights. However during the day, I took a few breaks, but it was not enough. I should have stayed out of the computer more often and longer. When I did, once I come back on the screen I was much more efficient. And it’s not because you are not in front of the screen that there is nothing to do. Some real breaks (not thinking of the game) also really do some good. I know that’s obvious, but I did not gave enough attention to this detail.

– My goal was too high
I should have focused on something easier. At first, I did not plan making the intro. Then I did not think it would take me so long, but did not want to get rid of it (and I still don’t. but maybe I could have found something that requires less content creation). Image creation really took ages. I thought it would require me the sunday morning, actually at the end of the afternoon I had not finished.


Anyway, my initial goal is reached. I wanted something finished : it is there. It sucks ? I don’t care. It was my first LD so I was experimenting quite a lot of things at once. Next time I’ll focus more on how to make something fun to play, improve the gameplay (it won’t be hard: there is none here), make less images or find ideas on how to generate or get rid of them. One step at a time.

Oh, I almost forgot. That was reaaaaaally fun. Of course there were some boring moments (you know, this small bug that you can’t get rid of…), but I spent the weekend between the LD website seeing updates of others, talking on IRC with the french guys taking part in it, and at the same time making a game. I actually almost did not notice that I was in front of a computer screen for 2 days. That was definitely worth it.


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